Please attribute the following statement to Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California (ACLU SoCal):
The ACLU SoCal is deeply troubled by the Los Angeles City Council’s decision to spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on body cameras for the Los Angeles Police Department without considering the most important issue—how the technology will actually be used.Media contact: Tony Marcano, 213.977.5242, firstname.lastname@example.org
City leaders touted police worn body cameras as a way to improve police transparency, accountability and public trust. However, the way LAPD plans to use them will severely undermine those goals. First, the public will not get to see the footage, even in cases of fatal shootings or other critical use of force incidents. Second, officers under investigation will watch the video before giving even an initial statement to investigators. Last, there are no safeguards against the cameras being used as surveillance tools to collect and keep information on law-abiding Angelenos, or against LAPD using the cameras to document and track activity protected by the First Amendment. Under these terms, the body cameras cannot hope to improve transparency and accountability, and they will be a big backwards step for public trust in law enforcement.
The devil is always in the details. With an investment of this size and an initiative of this importance, the policies for using the cameras should not have been simply rubber-stamped. The city’s failure to engage on LAPD’s policy represents not only a tremendous waste of public resources, but a tragic lost opportunity for improving policing in Los Angeles.